Study Guide

Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea Summary

As Part I opens, Antoinette Cosway is a young girl living with her mother and brother at Coulibri, her family's estate near Spanish Town, Jamaica. With the passage of the Emancipation Act and the death of her father, the family is financially ruined. Moreover, they are ostracized by both the black and white communities on the island. The black community despises them for being former slaveholders, and the white community looks down on them because they are poor, Creole, and, in her mother's case, French. Among the only servants who remain is Christophine, a Martinique woman who is rumored to practice obeah.

Motivated in part by her family's desperate situation, Annette, Antoinette's mother, marries Mr. Mason, a wealthy planter. This marriage, however, only seems to aggravate racial tensions in their neighborhood. One night, rioters burn the house down. The entire family narrowly escapes, all except Antoinette's brother Pierre, who, due to his exposure to the smoke, either dies very soon after. Pierre's death devastates Annette, who goes mad with grief. Mr. Mason sends Annette off to an isolated house to be cared for by a couple of color. Antoinette is sent to live with her aunt Cora in Spanish Town. For a year and a half, Antoinette attends a convent school there. Part I ends with Mr. Mason back in Antoinette's life, insinuating that plans for arranging her marriage are already under way.

Part II opens with a newly wedded Antoinette and Rochester on their honeymoon in Granbois, the Cosway estate outside Massacre, Dominica. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that their marriage was arranged by Rochester's father, Mr. Mason, and Richard Mason, Antoinette's stepbrother. After only a month of courtship, Rochester married Antoinette. While at first wary of each other, Antoinette and Rochester grow to trust each other and consummate their marriage.

But the honeymoon is short-lived, as Rochester receives a malicious letter from a man who claims to be Daniel Cosway, Antoinette's stepbrother. The letter alleges that there is a history of sexual degeneracy and mental illness in Antoinette's family, and it also alleges that Antoinette had previously been engaged to a relative of color, Sandi Cosway. After receiving the letter, Rochester spurns Antoinette. Using an obeah potion obtained from Christophine, Antoinette drugs and seduces Rochester. On waking, Rochester realizes that he has been drugged, and sleeps with Antoinette's maid in revenge. Betrayed, Antoinette seems to go mad herself. Part II ends with their departure from Granbois to Spanish Town, where Rochester plans to have Antoinette declared insane and confined.

Part III opens with Antoinette already confined in Thornfield Hall (in England), guarded by Grace Poole. Antoinette seems to have little sense of who or where she is at this point. Her stepbrother Richard Mason visits her, and she attacks him after he refuses to help her out of her marriage. Finally, she dreams that she escapes from her room and sets fire to the entire house. At the end of the dream, she flees to the top of the battlements, then jumps off. Antoinette wakes up, and the novel ends as she escapes from her room, with a candle lighting her way down a dark hallway.

  • Part I, Section 1

    Subsection 1

    • As the novel opens, we learn that Antoinette lives with her mother, Annette, and her brother, Pierre, on their dilapidated estate, Coulibri, outside Spanish Town, Jamaica. Antoinette's father, Mr. Cosway, passed away some time before. The local whites look down on them because Annette is from Martinique, a French colony. We also learn that, due to the recent passage of the Emancipation Act, their plantation, like many of the other plantations on the island, has fallen into disrepair because they can't, sniff, exploit slave labor anymore (for more historical context, see "Setting").
    • Mr. Luttrell, a neighboring plantation owner who has also fallen on hard times, is so depressed that he shoots his dog and drowns himself in the ocean.
    • Despite their poverty, Annette still enjoys getting dressed up and parading around on her horse even though she is mocked everywhere she rides. Antoinette finds her mother's horse – it has been poisoned. Annette accuses Godfrey, their servant, of knowing who poisoned the horse. Godfrey mumbles some stuff about the "devil prince" (I.1.1.10).
    • A dead dog, a dead man, a dead horse…the body count in this novel is already getting pretty impressive.

    Subsection 2

    • Pierre has a mysterious disorder that impairs his ability to speak and to walk. Annette calls in a doctor. Although we're not told what he says, Annette is devastated. She avoids going out, and she barely talks to Antoinette. She spends much of her time wandering around the house talking to herself.
    • Understandably freaked out by her mother's behavior, Antoinette hangs out with Christophine, who sings her melancholy songs in patois (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patois). Antoinette doesn't understand all the words, but she does know that the songs are all about people being abandoned by their loved ones. (That's a pretty obvious piece of foreshadowing. In fact, everything that happens in Part I is a pretty obvious piece of foreshadowing…)

    Subsection 3

    • Antoinette is chased by a girl who taunts her and calls her a "white cockroach," a derogatory term for white Creoles (see our discussion of "Race" in "Character Clues").
    • Christophine discovers that the girl is Tia, the daughter of Christophine's friend Maillotte. Tia and Antoinette become friends.
    • One morning, Antoinette drops some pennies that Christophine had given her. Tia bets Antoinette three pennies that Antoinette can't turn a somersault under water. Antoinette bets her all the pennies that she can.
    • Antoinette turns one somersault underwater, starts to turn another one but can't complete it. Tia takes the money because she doesn't think Antoinette did a good somersault.
    • Things get nasty as Antoinette calls Tia a "cheating nigger"; Tia fires right back and taunts Antoinette for being a "white nigger" (I.1.3.12-3).
    • When Antoinette's back is turned, Tia disappears with Antoinette's dress. Antoinette puts on Tia's dress and heads home.
    • When Antoinette arrives, she notices that two young women and a gentleman, all of whom are elegantly dressed, are visiting her mother. They laugh at her dress, and she runs away. Later, Christophine explains to Antoinette that these visitors are Luttrell's relatives, come to take over his plantation.
    • When Antoinette goes to bed, she dreams that she is walking in a forest. Someone who hates her is stalking her. As she hears the stranger's footsteps coming closer, she fights and screams, but she's paralyzed.
    • She wakes up crying. Her mother looks in on her, chides her for waking up her brother, and goes to check on Pierre.
    • Antoinette thinks that Annette may have sold her last ring to buy them both new dresses. All of a sudden, Annette has become a social butterfly, spending every day with the Luttrells. For Antoinette, the house feels empty without her mother, so she spends most of her time outdoors.

    Subsection 4

    • Antoinette is a bridesmaid at her mother's wedding to Mr. Mason in Spanish Town. She scowls at the wedding guests because she remembers over-hearing their malicious gossip about her family.

    Subsection 5

    • Antoinette and Pierre stay with their aunt Cora in Spanish Town while Annette and Mr. Mason go off to Trinidad for their honeymoon.
    • When Annette and Mr. Mason return, Antoinette admires her mother while she dances.
    • Mr. Mason wonders why Aunt Cora didn't help them more when Mr. Cosway died. Antoinette explains that Aunt Cora's husband hated the West Indies, and Aunt Cora had to stay in England with her husband until he died.

    Subsection 6

    • Mr. Mason, Annette, Antoinette, and Pierre return to Coulibri, which Mr. Mason has spruced up.
    • Antoinette walks into Christophine's room and is fearful. Without seeing anything, she feels sure that an obeah charm is hidden somewhere in the room. We don't know if there is, in fact, a shriveled hand, some chicken feathers, and a nearly decapitated rooster piled somewhere in the room, because Christophine walks in cheerfully and Antoinette forgets the whole episode. Or thinks she does.
    • After a year, Annette pushes Mr. Mason to take the family away from Coulibri. Annette insists that the blacks in the area (many of whom are her former slaves) are planning something terrible, but Mr. Mason thinks she's just paranoid. It's not clear why Mr. Mason wants to stick around so badly when he's got estates on other islands, but Antoinette is glad he wants to stay.

    Subsection 7

    • On their way home after an outing, the family notices that the surrounding huts are empty. Mr. Mason wonders if there's a dance or a wedding. Annette is convinced that there's something more sinister going on and wants to leave the estate with Pierre.
    • At dinner, Mr. Mason talks about his plan to import workers from the East Indies because he thinks the local population is too lazy. (Again, why does he want to stay?!) Annette warns him not to talk about his plans in front of Myra, their black servant, because she might tell the other blacks in the area of his plans.
    • Antoinette peeks in on Pierre as he sleeps in his crib. She hears the bamboo creaking and a "sound like whispering" outside, but when she looks, she doesn't see anyone there (I.1.7.29). It's a full moon.
    • Antoinette goes to bed, and waits for Christophine to come by to say good night – but there's no Christophine.
    • Annette wakes Antoinette and tells her to get dressed. Antoinette hears her mother going next door to Pierre's room and talking with Myra, who's watching Pierre. Still half-asleep, Antoinette thinks she hears a chair fall in Pierre's room, and then gets up.

    Subsection 8

    • Everyone is assembled downstairs: Antoinette, Mr. Mason, Annette, Christophine (who has magically re-appeared without any explanation), and their servants, Mannie and Sass. Antoinette notices that both Godfrey and Myra are missing. Mr. Mason walks outside where a crowd has gathered. He asks them what they want, and he's greeted by a noise "like animals howling" (I.1.7.2).
    • Annette wonders if it was a good idea to leave Pierre in his room alone with Myra (um…you think?). She wrings her hands, and her wedding ring falls off. Just then, Mannie notices that the back of the house where Pierre's bedroom is located is on fire.
    • Annette runs to Pierre's bedroom and carries Pierre out in her arms. He seems lifeless, and his eyes have rolled back into his head. Annette berates Mr. Mason for refusing to leave Coulibri sooner. Mannie, Sass, and Christophine try to put out the fire.
    • Everyone leaves the house through a back way. Mr. Mason tries to get Annette to leave, but she refuses abandon her parrot, Coco, a sad little bird who's been kind of snippy ever since Mr. Mason clipped his wings.
    • Once outside, they find themselves taunted by a huge crowd. Antoinette doesn't recognize many of them, and wonders if they are not locals, but people who live by the bay.
    • Mr. Mason curses at them, then decides to try a prayer. Just as he ends his prayer, the taunting stops.
    • Was it the prayer? Maybe, maybe not. Because here comes Coco – that's right, the parrot. He's perched on a railing, his feathers on fire, but of course he can't escape because Mr. Mason clipped his wings. So the poor bird just sits there, flaming.
    • Fortunately for everybody else, it's a common superstition that it's bad luck to kill a parrot or even watch a parrot die. So, before anyone can see Coco breathe his last, pitiful bird-breath, everyone looks away, and the rioters pull back.
    • Antoinette and her family, however, aren't quite out of the woods yet. Their carriage is held up by a man who insists that they'll report the rioters to the police, who will return and punish the rioters all the more violently because they're black. Aunt Cora replies that the man will suffer all manner of torments in hell, which he seems to find compelling because he lets them into the carriage. A couple of women in the crowd seem to feel sorry for Antoinette and her family and begin to cry.
    • But wait – Antoinette's not going in the carriage. She sees Tia and her mother in the distance, and runs to Tia. She sees Tia holding a jagged rock in her hand, but she doesn't see Tia throw it or feel the stone. Instead, she feels blood running down her face, and when she looks up, Tia is also crying.
  • Part I, Section 2

    Subsection 1

    • Antoinette wakes up in a room in Aunt Cora's house. She's been ill for six weeks.
    • Aunt Cora explains that they escaped to the Luttrells' home at Nelson's Rest, and from there rode to Aunt Cora's house. According to Aunt Cora, Pierre died on the way to Nelson's Rest, but Antoinette believes that Pierre died some time before that. Aunt Cora also claims that Annette is in the country recuperating, but Antoinette remembers hearing her mother scream at Mr. Mason and imitating Coco, screaming "Qui est là? Qui est là?" Aunt Cora sings Antoinette a few songs to help her sleep.

    Subsection 2

    • Antoinette insists on visiting her mother with Christophine. Her mother is being cared for by a colored couple. When Antoinette goes to embrace her, her mother shoves her away.

    Subsection 3

    • Antoinette steps out of Aunt Cora's house for her first day of school at Mount Calvary Convent.
    • On the way, she is trailed by two children – a colored boy and a black girl. Both children harass her all the way to the convent gate. The girl shoves Antoinette, who drops her books.
    • All of a sudden, another boy runs across the street to chase away the children. It's Sandi Cosway, a colored relative. (Interestingly, Antoinette doesn't remark on his race immediately as she does with other non-white characters.) After checking in on her, Sandi promises to keep the other children from harassing her.
    • Antoinette finally enters the convent, where the nuns, who are of different races, comfort her, and Louise de Plana, another student, shows her around the school.

    Subsection 4

    • Antoinette settles in to the routine at the school. She and the other students embroider while Mother St. Justine reads them stories about the lives of female saints, all of whom rejected wealthy, handsome, eminently eligible suitors. Mother St. Justine also lectures them on the importance of hygiene, manners, and, of course, chastity. There's no dean's list at the school, but if there were, the de Plana sisters would be at the top.
    • Antoinette feels compelled by those around her to forget her mother, or at least to think of her as dead. Without Christophine, who has left to live with her son, no one is around to speak of her mother, and Aunt Cora has decided to leave for England for her health.

    Subsection 5

    • Antoinette gets into the routine of praying all the time – an awful lot of "Hail Mary's," if you're wondering about all that business about "now and at the hour of our death" – but soon starts questioning the point of all these prayers.
    • She should be praying for eternal light for her mother, but she knows her mother hates bright light (and she's still alive, right?), so she stops praying for her mother.
    • All the talk about ecstasy in heaven makes her eager to die, but then praying for death is a sin, so she prays not to pray for death. But then she wonders why so many things are sins, before she realizes that she's probably sinned again just by thinking that.
    • If you're keeping count, she's praying not to think about thinking about why everything's a sin, including praying for death. Got it?
    • Fortunately, Sister Marie Augustine steps in and explains that, as long as you chase away the sinful thought as soon as you think it, you haven't sinned. Antoinette gets so good at chasing away sinful thoughts that she doesn't feel compelled to pray anymore.
    • While Antoinette works herself out of her religious conundrums, Mr. Mason has been visiting her frequently, taking her on little outings and giving her small gifts. After about eighteen months, he announces that it's time for her to leave the convent. He tells her he wants her to be "safe" and "secure," but these words do not inspire Antoinette with confidence. Instead, it fills her with soul-crushing fear. (Remember everything that happened at Coulibri, when Mr. Mason said everything was going to be all right and everyone should stop being paranoid?)
    • Not surprisingly, Antoinette has her nightmare for the second time. Only this time there's a lot more detail. She's wearing a long, white dress (hint hint). Even though the stranger's face is "black with hatred," she doesn't try to escape (I.2.5.24). She follows him out of the forest into a garden and up some steps. She holds onto a tree, which sways as if it were trying to shake her loose.

    Subsection 6

    • Sister Marie Augustine takes her out of the dormitory and offers her a cup of hot chocolate. Instead of comforting her, the chocolate reminds Antoinette of her mother's funeral.
    • Mother's funeral, you ask? That's right – at some point last year, her mother died mysteriously, and Antoinette is just telling us now.
    • Thinking of that sad moment, Antoinette asks Sister Marie Augustine why such terrible things happen, and Sister Marie Augustine replies that she doesn't know why "the devil must have his little day" (I.2.6.9). Not exactly comforting. She tells Antoinette to go back to sleep.
  • Part II, Section 1

    Subsection 1

    • At this point, Rochester takes over the narrative. He and Antoinette arrive in the ominously named Massacre, on the nearby island of Dominica, for their honeymoon (for a discussion of the significance of the place, see "Setting"). He meets some of the servants, including Amélie, a saucy vixen who keeps giggling maliciously at him (or is he just being paranoid?). He thinks of how little he knows Antoinette. For most of the month before their marriage, he had been ill with a fever.
    • The rain stops, and the porters carry the luggage on their heads. Amélie also carries some luggage on her head. A cock crows, and Rochester flashes back to their wedding night. They had slept in separate rooms because Antoinette was exhausted, and Rochester spent the night listening to the cocks' crowing. He remembers getting up early that morning and watching the women carry their trays to the kitchen on their heads, just as Amélie was.

    Subsection 2

    • As the party approaches Granbois, Rochester is overwhelmed with the "wild" nature that surrounds him (II.1.2.1).
    • In his head, he plans out a letter to his father which conveniently fills us in on the back-story. We find out that since he's not the first son, he inherits nothing from his father, so he has married Antoinette for her money.
    • Upon arriving at Granbois, Rochester's not too impressed. Perhaps if he got over the whole English superiority thing he might be able to appreciate things more, but he can't. To him, everything looks like a sorry imitation of England – the dirt is red like England, the house looks like a rundown version of an English summer house. He does notice that for the first time Antoinette doesn't seem afraid or uneasy.
    • The servants are waiting for them in front of the house – among them, Christophine. He doesn't find Christophine at all intimidating. Little does he know…
    • Antoinette guides him into the house, where they clink a couple of glasses of rum and toast to happiness. She shows him around the place, and he continues to be less than enthusiastic.
    • She shows him his dressing room, which used to belong to Mr. Mason. It's got a small bed, a desk, and a bookshelf with Byron's poetry, Sir Walter Scott's novels, and Confessions of an Opium Eater, among other things. (For the time period, 1839, these books are roughly equivalent to today's bestsellers, only a bit more highfalutin.) Baptiste pops in and tells Rochester that Mr. Mason didn't like the place much.
    • Rochester sits at the desk and finally writes out the letter to his father he's been thinking through in his head. The letter gives us a little more fill-in on the back-story. When he arrived in Spanish Town, he was down with a fever, and stayed with Mr. Fraser, a magistrate who loved to talk about his cases.
    • Rochester wonders how the mail gets posted, and puts the letter back in his desk.
  • Part II, Section 2

    • Rochester flashes back to his courtship of Antoinette.
    • It is unclear exactly how Rochester's marriage to Antoinette was arranged, but he arrived in Jamaica ready to play the part of a devoted suitor. He doesn't remember much of the wedding – he doesn't even remember what Antoinette looked like. He does remember the weird looks the guests gave him, but he's not sure exactly why they were acting so strangely.
    • He then thinks back to the day before the wedding. Richard Mason informed him that Antoinette was unwilling to go through with the wedding. Rochester asked Antoinette why, and she said it was because she was afraid. Rochester did some smooth-talking to make her feel better, and the wedding was back on.
  • Part II, Section 3

    Subsection 1

    • Rochester thinks he may have fallen asleep during his flashbacks, because he hears Antoinette in the next room telling a woman not to put too much scent in her hair.

    Subsection 2

    • At night, Rochester and Antoinette dine together. As for ambiance, they have plenty of it. The room is lit with candles, and the table is decked with beautiful pink flowers. Moths and beetles swarm the room, attracted by the light. As usual, Rochester is underwhelmed and finds dinner spicy.
    • Antoinette asks Rochester if England is "like a dream," and Rochester replies that actually Jamaica is like a dream. They have a tiff over which is more "unreal."
    • After dinner, they go outside. A giant moth flies into one of the candles, and Rochester saves it and lets it fly away.
    • Antoinette tells Rochester about a time when she was at Granbois after…but she doesn't specify after what exactly. Rochester ignores her pause – he just doesn't want to hear any depressing stories. (A little late for that, but let's move on.)
    • Antoinette ignores Rochester and tells him that, one night, she woke to see two huge rats staring at her from a windowsill. She could see herself in the mirror looking at the rats, but she wasn't afraid. She fell asleep, and, when she woke again, she noticed that the rats had left and it's only then that she became afraid. She got up and slept outside in a hammock in the light of the full moon. Christophine was quite annoyed when she found Antoinette the next morning because it's bad luck to sleep under a full moon.
    • Antoinette asks Rochester whether he thinks she's slept too much under a full moon. Instead of being freaked out, Rochester is touched by what he sees as her vulnerability. He embraces her while singing a soothing song about someone named Robin dying.
    • They have a couple of glasses of wine and toast their happiness again.

    Subsection 3

    • Rochester wakes up the next morning, feeling Antoinette watching him. Christophine waltzes in with some coffee, and tells Rochester to enjoy her wonderful coffee, which she describes as "bull's blood…not horse piss like the English madams drink" (II.3.3.4). Rochester is put off by Christophine's way of talking, but agrees.
    • As Christophine walks slowly out of the room, her long dress trailing on the floor, Rochester asks Antoinette why Christophine isn't worried about her dress getting dirty. Antoinette explains that it's common custom to let your dress trail because it shows that you have other dresses. It is also a sign of respect on special occasions.
    • Rochester also wonders why Christophine walks so slowly – to him, she seems lazy. Antoinette explains that Christophine isn't lazy, just methodical.
    • Antoinette stretches out and tells him she's planning on spending the entire day in bed. She recommends that he check out the local swimming spots.

    Subsection 4

    • Rochester and Antoinette often visit the bathing pool, a kind of small swimming pond.
    • One day, a giant crab appears on a rock, and Antoinette throws a rock at it. Rochester asks her who taught her to throw so well, and she tells him that a boy named Sandi did.

    Subsection 5

    • At night they watch the sunset from their summer home. Rochester notices that Antoinette is very generous to the servants, and he also notices that the servants' friends and families often visit, eating and drinking a lot, and Antoinette doesn't seem to notice.
    • It is suggested that they haven't yet consummated their marriage, possibly because of Rochester's illness, but also because he still doesn't quite trust her.
    • Rochester notices, however, that Antoinette seems to have let her guard down around him. She's become more talkative, especially at night, when she talks about her sad childhood. She explains that before she met Rochester, she hadn't expected ever to be happy, but now that she is happy, she's afraid he'll take her happiness away from her. Rochester tells her that she doesn't have to be afraid around her.
    • Finally, she asks, "If I could die. Now, when I am happy. Would you do that? You wouldn't have to kill me. Say die and I will die" (II.3.5.40).
    • Rochester reads Antoinette's request as an invitation to get it on, so they finally have sex. A whole lot of it. All the time. But Rochester believes that it isn't love, just plain old physical lust.
  • Part II, Section 4

    Subsection 1

    • Amélie hands Rochester a letter from Daniel Cosway.
    • The letter is somewhat hard to follow, as Daniel switches back and forth between wordy bouts of self-pity and gossip about Antoinette's family. Daniel's letter is basically another version of the events that we've learned so far from Antoinette. According to Daniel, however, the Cosways have brought their fate upon themselves through immoral behavior (randy Mr. Cosway) and the inherent madness that all white Creoles share. Daniel claims that Richard Mason tricked Rochester into marrying Antoinette, and implies that Christophine or some form of black magic was involved. Daniel also claims that he's too stupid to make up these stories, so they must be true.
    • To confirm his story, Daniel tells Rochester to ask Richard Mason three questions: 1) whether Antoinette's mother was murderously insane; 2) whether Antoinette's brother was an "idiot"; 3) and whether Antoinette is also insane. He also asks Rochester to come visit him for more information – Amélie knows the way.
    • After reading this letter, Rochester is stunned. He walks along the river, and, when he returns, he catches Amélie telling Antoinette that Christophine is leaving.
    • When Amélie sees Rochester, she laughs and says he looks as if he's seen a zombie, and suggests that he's sick of Antoinette and plans on leaving her as well. Antoinette hits Amélie, Amélie hits back, and Rochester has to break up the fight. As Amélie leaves, she sings a mocking song about a "white cockroach."
    • Christophine comes in and explains that she's leaving because she knows that Rochester doesn't like her, and she doesn't want to create friction between the two. She threatens Amélie with dire consequences if Amélie doesn't behave, and leaves, muttering some patois. Antoinette retreats into her room.

    Subsection 2

    • Antoinette still hasn't left her room, so Rochester decides to take a nap. When he wakes up, she seems to be asleep, so he decides to go for a walk.

    Subsection 3

    • On his walk, Rochester gets lost in a dark forest. In many ways, this walk is like Antoinette's nightmare, only instead of being followed by a strange, hostile stranger, Rochester feels that the entire forest is "hostile." He follows what looks like an old paved road until he hits a clearing and the ruins of a stone house. At the bottom of a wild orange tree, he sees bunches of flowers tied with grass.
    • A small girl sees Rochester. He tries to greet her, but she screams and runs away.
    • Rochester tries to find his way back, but gets lost as night descends. Finally, Baptiste tracks him down and guides him back to the house.
    • Antoinette still hasn't left her bed, so Rochester decides to spend the night with some quiet reading. He flips open to a chapter on obeah, where he reads that zombies are either dead people who seem to be alive or live people who seem to be dead. The author notes that blacks refuse to discuss obeah, or, when they do, they usually lie. The effects of obeah magic – or vodou, as it is called in Haiti – are attributed to an untraceable poison.
  • Part II, Section 5

    Subsection 1

    • Antoinette sets out on horseback to visit Christophine. At Mounes Mors (which means "the Dead Ones,") the horse stumbles, so Antoinette has to get off and walk the horse the rest of the way.
    • Seeing Christophine, Antoinette flashes back to a childhood memory of Christophine washing her clothes by the river along with some women. She remembers feeling as if she belonged there.
    • Antoinette tells Christophine that Rochester no longer loves her, and asks Christophine for her advice. At first, Christophine tells Antoinette to leave Rochester for a short while (i.e., play hard to get). She utters the time-honored wisdom that "when man don't love you, more you try, more he hate you, man like that" (II.5.1.14). Christophine suggests Antoinette go to Martinique, but Antoinette says she might go to England.
    • At the thought of England, Antoinette has the uncanny feeling that, even though she's never been to England, she knows exactly what she'll find there: the look of snow, a bed with red curtains, and the end of her recurring nightmare. Christophine dismisses this idea.
    • But really this is just Antoinette's way of warming up Christophine for her real request: she wants Christophine to fix her up an obeah potion. Christophine balks. At first she says it's just nonsense, as if she's denying that obeah exists, and then she says that "bad bad trouble come when béké meddle with that," which suggests that she believes that obeah works (II.5.1.37).

    Subsection 2

    • Antoinette then has a flashback to an unspecified time before her wedding when she overheard her aunt Cora arguing with Richard Mason over the wedding arrangements. Aunt Cora believed it was scandalous for Richard to sign over Antoinette's inheritance to Rochester, but Richard insisted that Rochester was an honorable man.
    • After the argument, Antoinette walked in, and Aunt Cora offered her a bag with her rings to sell just in case Antoinette needed the money.
    • Antoinette must have sold one ring, as she says that she wants to sell "another" but isn't sure if she can find a buyer on this island.

    Subsection 3

    • Christophine gives Antoinette the surprisingly good advice that Antoinette should just talk to the guy, coolly and rationally (not, say, in those weird, morbid nighttime conversations about unhappiness and death). But Antoinette is so distraught that, after drawing some random lines and circles in the dirt, Christophine agrees to give her a potion, but only if Antoinette agrees to talk to the guy first. Of course, if she's already given Antoinette the potion, then there's no way for her to take it back if Antoinette doesn't keep to the bargain, so…well, you know what's coming.
    • Antoinette offers Christophine money, which Christophine rejects. However, it is unclear whether Christophine really does give back the money, because Antoinette later states that she had "forced" Christophine to make her a potion with her "ugly money" (II.5.3.30).
    • As Antoinette leaves, she hears a cock crowing, which echoes back to all the other times that characters have heard cocks crowing. Only here, Antoinette thinks of Judas, making an explicit link to the Biblical story of treachery.
  • Part II, Section 6

    Subsection 1

    • While Antoinette visits Christophine, Rochester is back at the summer house. Amélie passes him a second letter from Daniel. In the first few lines, Daniel threatens to come over to the summer house and harass Rochester.
    • Rochester asks Amélie for information about Daniel. The information she gives is somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, it seems as though Daniel had some training as a preacher, a "very superior man, always reading the Bible and…liv[ing] like white people." On the other hand, his parents are colored, although he told Rochester his father was white (Mr. Cosway), and he is, in Amélie's words, a "bad man."
    • Amélie tells Rochester to go see Daniel; otherwise, Daniel probably will create a ruckus. She also adds that Daniel's brother, Alexander, is the well-to-do coloured father of Sandi Cosway, the boy who saved Antoinette in Part I, and that she thinks that Sandi and Antoinette were once engaged.
    • Rochester thinks he hears Amélie say that she's sorry for him as she walks out of the room, but she denies it.

    Subsection 2

    • Rochester visits Daniel Cosway, who has already started to hit the rum pretty hard.
    • He tells Rochester about the time when he visited Mr. Cosway as a teenager, asking Mr. Cosway to acknowledge and support him financially. Mr. Cosway laughed in his face and said some terrible things about Daniel's mother. It is hard not to feel a little bad for Daniel because Mr. Cosway was a slave-owner who, it seems, was pretty unapologetic about sleeping with his female slaves and even less apologetic about supporting his children by those slaves.
    • Daniel then delves into his family tree a bit, and tells Rochester about his half-brother, Alexander, and says he witnessed some intimate moment between Sandi Cosway and Antoinette. Daniel also claims that Christophine had to leave Jamaica after she was jailed for practicing obeah.
    • (Oddly, even at the mention of obeah, Daniel can't seem to talk too explicitly about it – does he fear it, even though he's supposedly a Christian man? Is he fulfilling a racial stereotype?)
    • Finally, Daniel gets to the point – he thinks Rochester, in the typical English way, wants to avoid scandal and he's willing to accept money to stay quiet about all he knows. Perhaps not the best move, because he just explained to Rochester that everyone, white and black, knows what he knows…
    • Rochester rejects Daniel's blackmail and leaves, but not before Daniel taunts him with the supposed fact that Antoinette is related to his own despicable, "yellow" self.

    Subsection 3

    • The scene opens as Antoinette tries to clear the air with Rochester. Rochester asks her why she claims her mother died just a short while ago when she had previously said that her mother had died when she was a child. Antoinette explains that "[t]here are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about" (II.6.3.19).
    • (Did that clear things up for you? Didn't think so.)
    • Rochester then explains that he received a letter from Daniel. Antoinette denies that Daniel is related to her, and says that Daniel's real last name is Boyd, and he's got it in for all white people and for some reason really, really hates her. (The novel doesn't give us enough information to sort out who's right in this matter…)
    • Rochester notices how exhausted Antoinette looks, and suggests that they talk during the day. Antoinette insists on clearing up the matter that night. Rochester relents.
    • Rochester doesn't seem like such an ogre during this dialogue, even though he was resistant at first. Antoinette hesitates. To get her going, Rochester reminds her that she'd told him that her mother was miserable.
    • Antoinette explains that it was a terrifying time for her mother after Mr. Cosway died. For a few years, they lived together on the dilapidated estate isolated from the rest of the world with no one to help except a few servants, including Christophine. After the incident with Antoinette's dress, "everything changed." Antoinette blames herself for all of her mother's efforts to find a husband to provide for their family, which ended up costing her mother her sanity and her brother his life.
    • Antoinette explains that she believes her mother died the first death when Coulibri was destroyed, because her mother was so closely identified with the place.
    • She then tells Rochester that, during one of her visits to her mother, she spied the man who was taking care of her mother – who at this point was clearly disoriented – feed her rum and embrace her. Antoinette strongly implies that she witnessed her mother's rape.
    • Antoinette grows silent at this point, and laughs. Rochester hears her saying to herself that she has tried to talk to him, but "nothing has changed" (II.6.3.61).
    • Calling her Bertha, Rochester asks her about her visit to Christophine. Antoinette says that Christophine told her to leave him. Rochester at this point suggest that he needs some time to process what Antoinette has told him, and suggests that they go to bed.
    • As they go to bed, he notices a white powder on the floor. Antoinette says that it's to keep the cockroaches away.
    • At this point, Rochester seems almost at the point of accepting Antoinette. "Why shouldn't we be happy?" he asks her. To the reader, he says, "She need not have done what she did to me. I will always swear that" (II.6.3.88). But the section ends with his speaking in a voice not his own, and remembering putting out the lights on the table before he blacks out.

    Subsection 4

    • Rochester wakes from a dream where he is buried alive. He can't breathe, and realizes that Antoinette's heavy, perfumed hair has fallen across his mouth. He's dimly aware that he's been poisoned. He tastes the wine, and it's bitter.
    • He runs out of the house, and finds himself back at the ruined old house where he'd seen the obeah offering. He falls asleep, and, when he gets up, he finds his way back to the summer house without getting lost this time.
    • He hangs out in his dressing room, certain that Amélie is going to walk in and tell him that she feels sorry for him. Sure enough, Amélie walks in, feeds him some dinner as if he were a child, and voila, they sleep together.
    • When he wakes up, he regrets what he's done, even though he feels great ("satisfied and peaceful"). He knows that Antoinette must have heard everything in the room next door, and when he looks at Amélie's sleeping face, he is repulsed by what he sees as her "darker" skin and "thicker" lips (84).
    • When she wakes up, Amélie knows what's going on. After a brief, friendly conversation, Rochester offers her some money and they chat a little more about Amélie's plans to find a rich guy to marry in Rio.
    • Rochester asks Amélie whether she's still sorry for him, and she is, but she says she'll try to feel sorry for Antoinette as well.
    • When Amélie closes the door, Rochester hears his wife leaving the house on horseback.

    Subsection 5

    • After his little fling, Rochester takes another nap. When he wakes up, Baptiste informs him that the cook is leaving. Rochester notices that Baptiste doesn't seem quite as deferential as he used to be.
    • Rochester writes a letter to Mr. Fraser, the magistrate in Spanish Town, asking for information on obeah on the pretext that he's writing a book on the topic, but really seeking information about Christophine.
    • In his reply a few days later, Fraser writes that Christophine had indeed been imprisoned for practicing obeah, and that Mr. Cosway had befriended her and given her some property near Granbois. Fraser adds that he's letting the local police inspector know that Christophine is back in Rochester's neighborhood. If Christophine tries any of her funny business, Rochester can just call up the police inspector.

    Subsection 6

    • We are not told exactly how many days have passed since Antoinette left Granbois, but we know that it's dusk when she finally returns. She heads straight to her room and demands some rum. Rochester also helps himself to some rum and goes to her room.
    • When he opens the room, Antoinette looks a wreck: "her hair hung uncombed and dull into her eyes which were inflamed and staring, her face was very flushed and looked swollen" (II.6.6.18).
    • Antoinette yells at his hypocrisy for sleeping with Amélie and paying her off as if he were just another slave owner taking advantage of one of his female slaves.
    • She also yells at him for calling her "Bertha," arguing that the re-naming constitutes his own form of obeah, as a way of his trying to change her into someone else. According to Antoinette, Rochester has turned her beloved Granbois, the only place left to her where she loved and felt loved, into a place she hated.
    • Things get ugly as Rochester tries to take the bottle away from her, and Antoinette bites into his arm. She breaks a bottle and threatens him with it, throwing obscenities at him all the while.
    • Christophine intervenes at this point and tries to calm Antoinette down.
    • Rochester leaves the room and bandages his arm. He feels as though the whole place is his enemy – even the telescope hates him. That has to hurt.
    • He overhears Christophine cooing over Antoinette in patois, and Christophine's cooing makes him feel sleepy. He goes back into the larger room and decides he needs some more rum. Bad idea.

    Subsection 7

    • Before Rochester can go to sleep, Christophine pops in and berates him for breaking Antoinette's heart. Rochester says that it is actually Christophine and her obeah which has made Antoinette into a total wreck.
    • As Christophine really starts laying into Rochester, the novel takes a weird turn. Snippets of Christophine's diatribe are presented as echoing in Rochester's mind. It could be that the novel is trying to represent Rochester's state of mind – drunk, sleepy, barely able to respond to Christophine's attacks. Or is there perhaps a more sinister explanation – is Christophine's language actually paralyzing Rochester? Is she hexing him in some way, making him act zombie-esque? In this weird, trance-like dialogue, fragments pop up that couldn't possibly be Rochester's own thoughts, such as a bit of Antoinette's voice. Has Rochester gone telepathic all of a sudden? Or is it just the narrative being really clever?
    • From this weird dialogue, it appears that during Rochester's fight with Antoinette (see previous subsection), Antoinette had confirmed all of Daniel's assertions, but Christophine claims that Antoinette only said these things to hurt Rochester. (We'll never know, because the novel doesn't give us "the truth" – just different perspectives. ARGH.)
    • But Rochester snaps out of it once Christophine starts talking money. She offers to take Antoinette away if Rochester will leave her half her fortune. (Remember that bit where Richard Mason signed over all of Antoinette's fortune to Rochester?)
    • Rochester isn't having any of it, and tells her he plans to get Antoinette medical attention. Christophine snaps back that it is in Rochester's best interest to have Antoinette declared mad and stuck in an asylum so that he can enjoy her fortune unencumbered.
    • After more hectoring, Christophine mutters to herself, and Rochester knows it's not patois. (Then what is it? Again, the novel doesn't say.) Christophine finally leaves.

    Subsection 8

    • Rochester is strangely energized from his battle with Christophine. No longer tired, he has another swig of rum and writes a letter to his father to let his father know that he plans on leaving Jamaica with Antoinette as quietly as possible.
    • A cock crows. Rochester throws a book at it. It hops aside and crows some more. Baptiste claims that it is crowing for a change of weather, but we know from the previous times that a cock has crowed that a betrayal is being signaled.
    • Rochester idly draws a three-storied, English-style house with a stick-figure woman in a room on the top floor, a not-so-subtle allegory of what he plans on doing to Antoinette when they're back in England.
  • Part II, Section 7

    • Rochester has a contemplative moment on a cloudy summer day that's more reminiscent of an English summer than a Caribbean one. He mentions that it's almost hurricane season, which runs from August to October.
    • His thoughts reflect his conflicting feelings toward Antoinette. He starts by thinking of how much he hates her, how she'll cheat on him with anyone and everyone, how crazy he thinks she is, and how he'll make sure that she loves and is loved by no one. He plans to break her just as a hurricane wind blasts a tree.
    • Then his thoughts take a sentimental turn. If only her "blank hating moonstruck face" would show some emotion, if only she would shed a tear, he would embrace and console her – as long as her emotion is presented to him, for him alone to enjoy. He calls her his "mad girl" (II.7.18).
    • The subsection ends with his noting that the weather has changed, a reference back to the cock crowing in the previous section.
  • Part II, Section 8

    • Antoinette, Rochester, and their porters are getting ready to leave Granbois. Baptiste says good-bye, scarcely concealing his contempt for Rochester.
    • Rochester is surprised by his own sadness on leaving Granbois. Regret, maybe? On an impulse, he apologizes to Antoinette, who only looks back at him blankly. This doesn't surprise Rochester, but that pretty much does it for his apologetic mood.
    • At this point, Antoinette is more than just indifferent – she seems petrified. Rochester can't stop talking about her doll-like expression, the stiffness of her movements. (Of course, it's partly his fault because he keeps calling her a "marionette," and then there was that thing he did with her maid…)
    • Antoinette's state reminds Rochester again of how alien his surroundings are to him, and how he has always felt that the surroundings concealed a secret. He compares this secret to a treasure sunk deep in the sea. Since the law says that finders can only keep a third, many treasure-seekers don't tell anybody when they've located a treasure, preferring to sell their treasure in some clandestine way. He feels the same way about Antoinette and has the random thought that they should be like pirates who keep all their treasure for themselves. And who doesn't like a good pirate adventure?
    • Rochester, that's who. Instead of that promising avenue, Rochester sees Antoinette's hating stare, and can't help hating her back.
    • Rochester's musings are interrupted by a wailing servant boy. Antoinette explains that she'd promised the boy that he could join them because the boy liked Rochester so much. (Random, isn't it?) Rochester berates Antoinette for making promises in his name.
    • Part II ends with the boy trailing after them holding a basket on his head, still crying.
  • Part III, Section 1

    • Part III opens from Grace Poole's point of view. By this point, Antoinette has been locked up in an attic in Thornfield Hall, Rochester's estate in England. Grace has been hired to guard and nurse Antoinette.
    • In this brief section, Grace talks to Leah, a fellow servant, about how she ended up working at Thornfield. When Grace had gone in for a job interview with Mrs. Eff (short for Mrs. Fairfax), Mrs. Eff had insisted that no gossip was permitted, and Rochester was willing to pay her handsomely to keep quiet. Mrs. Eff had also told Grace that Rochester was no monster, but a decent man who'd obviously experienced some incredible tragedy.
    • Grace agrees to Mrs. Eff's terms, even though she believes that there already numerous rumors about Rochester and his wife in the village. She remembers meeting Antoinette and noting how frail and thin Antoinette looked.
    • She thinks to herself that the manor is a safe haven from all the rumors in the world, and perhaps that's why she, Mrs. Eff, and Leah are drawn to its isolation.
  • Part III, Section 2

    • We're back in Antoinette's head now. Antoinette doesn't remember how or why she ended up in the room – she's just really, really cold.
    • She thinks that if she only saw "him" (in this section as in all the others, Rochester is never named), she could persuade him to let her go, but she hasn't seen him since she's been locked up in the room.
    • She's aware that a woman named Mrs. Poole sleeps in her room. She watches Mrs. Poole count the money from a money bag tied around her neck, then get drunk and fall asleep.
    • She tries whatever Mrs. Poole is drinking – it's clear and tastes nothing like rum, but she feels that she can think and remember more clearly after she's had a taste.
  • Part III, Section 3

    • In Antoinette's room, there is a high window and an open bed. Next to a small dressing room is another room hung with tapestries. Antoinette thinks she sees an image in one of the tapestries of her mother dressed in an evening gown with bare feet.
    • There's no mirror, so Antoinette doesn't know what she looks like. She's not sure who or where she is.
    • Through the tapestry room is a passageway, where Antoinette spies Mrs. Poole whispering with Leah. Although the room is kept locked up, Antoinette knows where Mrs. Poole hides the keys.
    • When Mrs. Poole is asleep, Antoinette steals the keys and slips out into the passage. However, she doesn't think she's in a real house, but a cardboard one. She has heard that she's in England, but she doesn't believe it.
    • She remembers being on board a ship to England. She tried to get a young man who brought her food to help her, but Rochester caught her. She was drugged to sleep and, when she awoke, she noticed that the sea was different. But she still doesn't believe she's in England – just a cardboard world.
  • Part III, Section 4

    • When Antoinette wakes up, she notices that her wrists have red marks on them and doesn't know why.
    • Mrs. Poole tells her that a gentleman had come to visit her the day before, but Antoinette doesn't remember anything. She thinks there are visitors in the house, and she does remember seeing a woman during her night-time ramblings through the house. The woman was frightened and found another woman, who explained that she'd seen a ghost.
    • Mrs. Poole explains that the gentleman was her brother, Richard Mason, and when he came to visit her, Antoinette had attacked him with a knife.
    • Mrs. Poole says that she won't do anything to help Antoinette anymore. She'd convinced Mrs. Eff to let Antoinette go outside to get some fresh air, but while Mrs. Poole napped under a tree, Antoinette must have bought a knife from a passing stranger. Antoinette remembers trading her locket with a woman.
    • Mrs. Poole also reminds Antoinette that her brother, Richard Mason, had said that he could not intercede "legally" in Antoinette's marriage, and it was then that Antoinette had stabbed him.
    • Antoinette then remembers the incident, and remembers how Richard didn't seem to recognize her at first. She asks Mrs. Poole if she was wearing her red dress; Mrs. Poole says "no." Antoinette thinks that if she'd worn her red dress, her brother would have recognized her.
  • Part III, Section 5

    • The red dress reminds Antoinette of the last time she saw Sandi Cosway in Spanish Town. She was wearing the red dress when Sandi had asked her to run away with him. She refused.
    • Apparently they had an affair when Rochester was away. Their last kiss is described as a "life and death kiss," and she remembers hearing a white ship whistling as they kissed.
  • Part III, Section 6

    • Antoinette holds the red dress against herself and asks Mrs. Poole if it makes her look "unchaste," as Rochester said it did. Mrs. Poole tells her to put it away and warm herself with a grey shawl.
    • Antoinette drops the dress on the floor and compares it to a fire spreading across the room. The dress reminds her that there is something she must do, but she can't remember what.
  • Part III, Section 7

    • Antoinette has her dream for the third and last time, only this time she knows how it ends.
    • In her dream, she steals Mrs. Poole's keys and lets herself out of the room. The house seems empty, the guests are gone, and the bedrooms locked up. But she still feels as if someone is chasing her and laughing at her.
    • She finds herself in a room with a red carpet and red curtains, but everything else in the room is white. She thinks she must be in some kind of chapel, but she can't find an altar, only a gold clock.
    • Antoinette sits on a soft couch, and feels incredibly drowsy. All of a sudden, she is transported back to Aunt Cora's room. She sees the sunlight coming in, and the tree outside casts its shadow on the floor. But the sight of the candles transports her back to the red room. She knocks all the candles down – one of them sets fire to the curtains, and Antoinette enjoys the spectacle.
    • Antoinette goes back into the hallway and sees what she thinks is the ghost the other women were speaking of. Frightened, she drops her candle and sets fire to the tablecloth.
    • As she runs away or flies, she calls on Christophine to help her. She believes Christophine sends her a wall of fire to protect her from the ghost, but the wall of fire is too hot for her, so she runs away up the stairs.
    • She passes her own room up to the battlements on the roof of the house. She hears shouting, but ignores it. Sitting on top of the battlements, she sees a red sky with her entire life depicted in it. The sky is filled with images of life in Coulibri and Granbois.
    • She thinks she hears Coco calling "Qui est là? Qui est là?" and Rochester calling her "Bertha! Bertha!"
    • She leans over, and sees the pool at Coulibri. Tia is in the pool beckoning to her, and when Antoinette doesn't jump, Tia laughs at her. Antoinette hears screaming, and wonders why she is screaming. She calls out to Tia, jumps – then wakes up.
    • Mrs. Poole hears Antoinette scream and checks in on her, but Antoinette pretends to be asleep. Mrs. Poole goes to bed. When Antoinette hears her snore, she gets up and unlocks the door.
    • "Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do," Antoinette says. She shields a candle in the palm of her hand as she walks down the "dark passage" (III.7.6).